While the National Shooting Sports Foundation kicked off its annual trade show in Las Vegas on Monday, the Newtown Action Alliance gathered at NSSF headquarters in Newtown to draw attention to the way the gun industry is marketing its products.
“We’re putting pressure on the NSSF to be a responsible partner in the marketing of their product,” Dave Stowe, vice chairman and co-founder of the Newtown Action Alliance, said Monday after the press event outside the trade organization’s headquarters.
The event in Newtown attended by about 30 people coincided with the release of a report by the Violence Policy Center that details how guns like the Bushmaster XM-15 — which was used by the gunman in the Sandy Hook shooting — are marketed.
Stowe said the gun industry has the right to sell it’s product, but it should support background checks for all gun sales and manufacturers shouldn’t market their products to children.
The report from from the Violence Policy Center says that “to attract customers, Bushmaster uses the slogan ‘Justice for All’ on its catalog cover and images of shooters clad in military-style clothing. Their graphics often contain militaristic and law-enforcement terminology like ‘duty’ and ‘patrol’ and feature phrases such as ‘Control Your Destiny’ and ‘Bravery on Duty’.”
The report goes on to detail the marketing of several other military-style guns the group refers to as “assault weapons.”
A spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation said they “firmly reject the purposeful mischaracterization of our trade association and of the lawful business activities our members conduct.”
Michael Bazinet, a spokesman for NSSF, said one of those mischaracterizations is that “our members do not sell ‘assault weapons’ to the American public. Calling semiautomatic rifles that resemble, but are not military firearms, is purposely misleading and intended to confuse the public.”
The trade show in Las Vegas features more than 1,600 exhibitors and is restricted to “shooting, hunting and outdoor trade; and commercial buyers and sellers of military, law enforcement, and tactical products and services only,” according to its website.
In his statement, Bazinet also pointed to the gun safety programs operated by the NSSF.
Before the 2014 trade show got under way in Las Vegas, “we brought our ongoing Project ChildSafe initiative to the city in a launch that included county officials, law enforcement, and a representative of Sen. Harry Reid’s office,” Bazinet said. “In the last decade, we have distributed more than 36 million gun locks through this program in cooperation with 15,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide.”
The trade organization also runs an anti-straw purchasing education and public awareness program call “Don’t Lie for the Other Guy.”
Stowe said that while those efforts should be applauded there also have been funding cuts to the programs. For example, Project ChildSafe has not received any federal funding since 2008, which means only about 30 percent of the requests for gun safety kits are being met.
Stowe argues that gun manufacturers make enough money to fully fund the program, even without the help of the federal government.
He said like-minded groups will be gathering in Las Vegas to put pressure on the gun trade and lobbying organization to be more careful about how they market their product.
“We all abhor the criminal misuse of firearms,” Bazinet said. “We understand that emotions run strong. But it is important to keep in mind that the Department of Justice and the Pew Research Center have both documented a dramatic 30-year downward trend in the use of firearms in violent crime, even as our nation’s population and the number of guns owned by Americans has risen significantly.”
The Pew Research Center found that about four in 10 Americans live in a home where there is a gun. In May, the center found that 41 percent of adults reported having a gun in their household: 27 percent said they personally owned a gun, and 14 percent said the gun or guns in their home were owned by someone else.
On the other hand, the Violence Policy Center found that the number of Americans who own guns has decreased over the past few decades. They report that from 1977 to 2010, the percentage of American households that reported having any guns in the home dropped more than 40 percent